Mayor Cantrell Names Michelle Woodfork Interim NOPD Superintendent

30-year NOPD veteran Michelle Woodfork was named interim NOPD Superintendent on Dec. 20. She will be the first female NOPD chief in the department’s history. Photo courtesy New Orleans Police Department

The New Orleans Police Department has its first female superintendent – at least for now. On Tuesday, Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced that Michelle Woodfork, a 32-year department veteran, will serve as interim superintendent while a search is conducted for a permanent replacement following Shaun Ferguson’s retirement on Thursday.

“I have listened to our residents and our city council,” Cantrell said, referring to calls by the New Orleans City Council to hold off on the appointment of the new superintendent until after January 1, when the council gains approval over mayoral appointees. Cantrell affirmed during a press conference on Tuesday that she would not make an appointment before the new year.

Whether Cantrell will truly heed the advice of the council on a wider search for a new chief remains to be seen. On Tuesday, Cantrell stopped short of affirming that this would be a nationwide search, saying instead that anyone can apply. However, Cantrell also made it clear that candidates from inside the NOPD – including Woodfork – would be included in the search, which will be overseen by a consultant.

Current chief Shaun Ferguson has said that he believes his successor should come from inside the department, but affirmed that no matter who is chosen, he will assist their transition in any way that he can.

“Whomever is selected I will be here to assist them during their transition, while on the job and even after leaving the job,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson became chief in 2019 after serving more than 20 years within NOPD. Throughout his term as superintendent he has struggled to overcome a rising violent crime problem, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a continually dwindling police force. Although his decision to retire came following members of the City Council calling for his resignation, Ferguson insisted that the decision was his alone, and was rooted in his desire to spend more time with his family.

In naming Woodfork as Ferguson’s successor, the Mayor referred to the new chief as a “legacy within the New Olreans Police Department,” and stressed that Woodfork “made it through the ranks without favor.”

“First, I want to thank God for always bordering all my steps. I want to thank Mayor Cantrell for acknowledging and trusting my leadership skills, vast knowledge of law enforcement, and over three decades with the New Orleans Police Department,” Woodfork said, before also thanking her parents, teenage son, members of the NOPD, and current superintendent Shaun Ferguson. “I am honored and humbled to serve a interim superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department,” Woodfork said. “And I understand that with this appointment comes great responsibility and accountability.”

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